British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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Dec. 31.]                     new year's eve.                                501
of commencing work on " the cross day of the year" in Ireland.—N. & Q. 4th S. vol. xii. p. 185.
Dec. 31.]                 NEW YEAR'S EVE.
The last night of the old year has been called Singing-E'en, from the custom of singing carols on the evening of this day.
This eve is called by the Wesleyan Methodists Watch Night, because at their principal chapels the ministers and congregations hold a service to watch out the old year, i.e., they pray until about five minutes to twelve o'clock, and then observe a profound silence until the clock strikes, when they exultingly burst forth with a hymn of praise and joy. Latterly, this service has been very generally observed by evangelical churchmen.—See Timbs' Something for Everybody, 1861, p. 156.
Wassail-bowl.—Formerly, at this season, the head of the house assembled his family around a bowl of spiced ale, from which he drank their healths, then passed it to the rest, that they might drink too. The word that passed amongst them was the ancient Saxon phrase, wass hael; that is, to your health. Hence this came to be recognised as the Wassail or Wassel-bowl. The poorer class of people carried a bowl adorned, with ribbons round the neighbourhood, begging for something wherewith to obtain the means of filling it.—Book of Days, vol. i. p. 27; See Nare's Glossary (Halliwell and Wright), 1859, vol. ii. p. 943 ; Antiquarian Repertory, vol. i. p. 218; Ritson's Ancient Songs, 1790, p. 304.
New Year's Day and Eve are holidays with the miners. It has been said they refuse to work on these days from superstitious reasons.—Hunt's Romances of the West of England, 1871, p. 350.
At Muncaster, on the eve of the new year, the children used to go from house to house singing a ditty which craves
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